The world has never seen anything quite like Aarogya Setu. Two months ago, India’s app for coronavirus contact tracing didn’t exist; now it has nearly 100 million users. Prime Minister Narendra Modi boosted it on release by urging every one of the country’s 1.3 billion people to download it, and the result was that within two weeks of launch it became the fastest app ever to reach 50 million downloads.
India is currently the only democratic nation in the world that is making its coronavirus tracking app mandatory for millions of people, according to MIT Technology Review’s Covid Tracing Tracker, a database of global contact tracing apps.
While official policy is that downloading the app is voluntary, the truth is that government employees are required to use it, while major private employers and landlords are mandating it as well. The city of Noida is now reportedly fining and even threatening to arrest anyone who fails to install the app on their phone. It’s a dramatic step generating fierce criticism from civil liberties experts nationally, and from all over the globe.